BREAKING: Hollywood legend John Hurt has died aged 77
The actor, whose career spanned over six decades, had battled with both cancer and an intestinal complaint in recent years.
Legendary actor John Hurt has died, aged 77.
The Elephant Man star, whose career spanned over six decades, had battled with both cancer and an intestinal complaint in recent years.
Survived by his wife of 12 years, Anwen Rees-Myers, he recently starred as a priest in the Oscar nominated biopic of President John F. Kennedy’s widow, Jackie, currently showing in cinemas.
After rising to fame in A Man For All Seasons (1966), some of his most famous roles include the 1979 blockbuster Alien, the TV series I, Claudius in 1976 and starring as Winston Smith in the adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 made the year of the book’s title.
More recently, he starred as wandmaker Mr Ollivander in the Harry Potter series and an incarnation of Doctor Who in a 50th anniversary special of the series in 2013.
While battling pancreatic cancer in 2015, Sir John - the son of a clergyman - said he did not wish for an afterlife, saying: “I hope I shall have the courage to say, ‘Vroom! Here we go! Let’s become different molecules!”
He also said: “I can’t say I worry about mortality, but it’s impossible to get to my age and not have a little contemplation of it. We’re all just passing time, and occupy our chair very briefly.”
Last July, Sir John was forced to pull out of The Entertainer production in the West End after advice from his doctors.
He had been set to play the role of Billy Rice, father of Kenneth Branagh’s lead character Archie, but was taken hospital with an intestinal complaint and told by doctors it was “too soon… to undertake an arduous stage role,”.
In a statement, he said at the time: “It is therefore with great sadness and disappointment that I must withdraw.”
In October 2015, he was given the all clear after revealing he had been battling pancreatic cancer four months earlier, saying: “I am overjoyed, I am thrilled. It all looks great for the future, it’s fantastic.”
He received his knighthood in July the same year, and said of the honour: “It does make one inordinately proud.”
He also said he regretted his parents not being alive to see him receive the accolade.
The star lead a colourful life, partying for many years with the likes of Peter O’Toole, Oliver Reed and Lucian Freud.
He once boasted he drank seven bottles of wine every day, though later reduced his estimate to three.
Notorious for his wild lifestyle, he was reportedly fond of saying his career track record “isn’t bad for an old drunk”.
But in 2008 he said he’d been without drink for several years, and noted: “Times change. You change.
“When it no longer seemed to help, creatively, I mean, as it unquestionably had helped at one stage, it seemed time to give it up.
"Besides, attitudes to drinking have changed. Would Churchill have been able to get away with his drinking if he had been a politician today?”
Living in near-total sobriety in his later years, he grumbled in 2012: “Actors don’t drink so much now. There were eight of us sitting around the other night, and only one was drinking wine.”
Living in Norfolk, where he worked closely with the Cinema City venue, he took up painting as a hobby and once said: “All I want to do now is work, paint and spend as much time as possible with my wife.”
He married his fourth wife, film producer Anwen, 51, in 2005,and described the pair as being “wonderfully married”.
But previously, he was notorious for tumultuous love life. At the age of 22, he married actress Annette Robertson, reportedly while under the impression she was pregnant. After 18 months together, and no child, they parted.
He dated Marie-Lise Volpeliere-Pierrot for 16 years, but she died after falling from a horse in 1983 while the couple were out riding together in Oxford.
The next year he married Texan barmaid Donna Peacock, but described their relationship as “a Godzilla story” during which he built a “crazy” house in Kenya.
He later left her for American production assistant Joan “Jo” Dalton, who he met on the set of Scandal, and the couple moved into the Savoy hotel together.
They married in 1990, and had two sons together, Alexander “Sacha”, 26, and Nick, 23.
They divorced six years later after she reportedly found his drink problem impossible to live with, and left him for a landscape gardener.
In a strange turn of events, the exes were, at one point, dating a brother and sister, when Sir John dated socialite Sara Owens for seven years.
He later met Anwen, who he fondly described as “a Welsh Brummie” in 2003 at London’s Groucho club.
He said of their meeting: “I was on my own. She was with a couple of friends. We got talking and because she’s intelligent she didn’t have any preconceptions about me.”
The son of a vicar in the East Midlands, with one brother Michael, who later became a monk, and an adopted sister Monica, Sir John attended an Anglican academy, but failed to get the grades to attend a private secondary school and instead went to the public Lincoln school.
He has described being “different” to the other students, saying: “To get along with the others, I quickly learned to become working-class, a reactionary, a teddy, a low life. I even changed accents. I hated it.”
At the age of 17, Sir John asked his parents - amateur actress Phyllis and the Rev. Arnould Herbert - if he could become an actor.
He said in 1990: “They thought it represented something risque and populist. It was out of the question.”
Instead, he studied art, but while living in London in 1960 he auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Within three years he had made a number of appearances in London’s West End, and was hailed by critics.
For his first major big-screen role, The Elephant Man in 1980, he spent seven hours in makeup transforming into Victorian circus act John Merrick.
It took a further two hours to remove the 22 individual pieces of prosthetic deformities.
The film’s director, David Lynch, described him as “simply the greatest actor in the world”.
During his career, Sir John picked up two Academy Award nominations - for The Elephant Man and Midnight Express.
He won four Baftas for films including An Englishman in New York and The Naked Civil Servant.
In 2012, the ceremony honoured him with a lifetime achievement award.
He once described how his friend Sir Laurence Olivier, passed on advice to him, describing: “I remember Olivier, when I was playing the Fool in his King Lear, saying: ‘When it comes to the obituary, they’ll only ever mention three things, probably two, but if you’re lucky three.’
"And of course when he died, they mentioned Richard III, Henry IV and either Marathon Man or Wuthering Heights.
“I mean, if you write your own obituary, I don’t know, they’d take the things that got awards wouldn’t they? So it would be Midnight Express, it would be Elephant Man and Naked Civil Servant probably.”
He reportedly chuckled that he had no objections to the selection, adding: “I won’t be here, I’ll be gone so it’ll be entirely up to them.”
His classic films
Over the years John Hurt starred in a huge range of hit and classic films during a career of more than 50 years on the big screen that began in 1962.
Some of his most famous movies include:
- 1962 The Wild and the Willing
- 1966 A Man For All Seasons
- 1978 The Midnight Express
- 1978 The Lord of the Rings
- 1979 Alien
- 1980 The Elephant Man
- 1984 Nineteen Eighty-Four
- 1989 Scandal
- 1991 King Ralph
- 1998 Night Train
- 2001 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
- 2001 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
- 2002 Miranda
- 2002 Crime And Punishment
- 2003 Dogville
- 2004 Hellboy
- 2004 Pride
- 2005 Valiant
- 2006 V For Vendetta
- 2008 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
- 2009 New York, I Love You
- 2009 44 Inch Chest
- 2010 Brighton Rock
- 2010 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1
- 2011 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
- 2011 Melancholia
- 2011 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
- 2014 Hercules
- 2016 Jackie
- 2017 That Good Night
- 2017 My Name Is Lenny